Camp fairs like the FREE Bucks Camp Expo on January 18, 2020 help families find the right program, save money, and make good decisions about summer camp
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Camp fairs like the FREE Bucks Camp Expo on January 18, 2020 help families find the right program, save money, and make good decisions about summer camp
Choosing the right summer camp experience takes time, and registering early often yields big savings.

Sponsor: Bucks County Camp Expo
Author: Ellen Warren, 205-886-1666, info@buckscountyexpo.com

NOW is the best time for parents to start thinking about what their children will do this summer. Although summer may seem months away, some summer camps fill up early, and many offer early registration discounts that expire in early spring. The nonprofit American Camp Association says that January is the most popular month to register for summer camp.

The FREE Bucks Camp Expo on Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 12:00 to 3:00 pm at Delaware Valley University’s Student Center Building, 700 E. Butler Ave., Doylestown, PA, allows parents to learn about 50+ day and overnight camps, all under one roof. The Bucks Camp Expo has helped connect families with summer camps for 20 years, because research shows that camp is good for kids. Youth development experts know that a summer camp experience can help children learn valuable life skills that help them succeed in school and later in the workplace—skills such as independence, resilience, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, conflict-resolution, responsibility, imagination, creativity, and communication. Summer camp offers a safe environment where children unplug from electronics, reconnect with nature, enjoy physical activity (which helps combat the childhood obesity epidemic), make new friends, and try new activities—supported by nurturing counselors and adult staff who are trained to promote positive experiences.

At camp fairs like the Expo, parents can speak with camp representatives (and see how they interact with their children), ask questions and collect brochures and information to review further with children at home. Look at camps for summer 2020 and future summers—kids who attend day camp now may grow into an overnight program. Exhibiting camps at the Bucks Camp Expo include day camps that serve families in Bucks County and NE Philadelphia, overnight programs from Pennsylvania and beyond; traditional and special interest camp programs (STEM, arts, sports, nature, sewing, and more), teen travel/adventure and leadership programs, and camps for children with special needs. It’s a great way to meet camps that families might want to visit at spring Open Houses or on summer family trips (for future consideration, visit overnight camps in summer to see the camp in action). Learn more at  http://www.buckscampexpo.com/.

Finding the right summer camp experience that meets your family’s needs can take time, so parents shouldn’t wait until the last minute to start their summer camp search. Early registration will help ensure that your child has a place at whatever camp you choose, and the Bucks Camp Expo can help you start!

How to Choose a Summer Camp

Engage children in the camp selection process to help build excitement for their summer camp experience. Even young children enjoy watching videos of happy kids engaged in activities on camp websites or in camp brochures, and discussing what they might like to do at camp. Keep discussions positive and focused on making new friends and trying new activities. Tell children you can’t wait to hear about their special days at camp!

Older children may wish to pursue a special interest at a focused summer program, or take a summer break from lessons by attending a traditional camp with a diverse array of activities. Many camps now blend traditional and specialty programs, offering children and teens the opportunity to try new things while still enjoying or practicing their favorite activities. Some children attend one camp for the whole summer, while others may attend shorter sessions at one or multiple camps to accommodate special interests or a family vacation. More camps now offer some type of academic enrichment program that can be integrated as needed into the camp day.

Families should start their camp search by discussing their summer schedule and budget, as well as their children’s needs. Will a day camp or overnight camp be right for your child? How many weeks will your child attend camp? Would your child thrive in a same gender or coed camp program? Once you’ve narrowed down the basics, a variety of tools can help you find the perfect camp match for your family. 

How to Find the Right Summer Camp

Choosing a summer camp can often feel as overwhelming as choosing a college. There are more than 12,000 camps in the U.S., and local communities typically offer a range of programs, from municipal parks and recreation programs to privately-owned and school day camps, to nonprofit and faith-based camps, to independent sports and performing arts camps. To help find the right camp for your family, parents can turn to camp fairs like the Bucks Camp Expo, online search engines, community websites, local newspapers and magazines, and referrals from family, friends, neighbors, teachers, guidance counselors, clergy and colleagues.

Camp directors welcome your questions at camp fairs, so take the time to ask important questions like these:

1. What is the camp’s philosophy and program emphasis?
2. What makes this camp unique?
3. What is the camp director’s background?
4. What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?
5. What does a typical camp day include?
6. Does the camp offer age-appropriate activities that can grow with your child?
7. Do campers choose activities or move as a group?
8. How are behavioral and disciplinary problems handled?
9. How does the camp handle special needs and dietary restrictions?
10. How does the camp handle homesickness and other adjustment issues?
11. What is the camp’s policy on cell phones and electronic games?
12. Is medical staff present on camp?
13. What experience, certifications, and training do counselors have or get?
14. What percentage of campers return each year?
15. What percentage of counselors return each year?
16. Is the camp sanitized regularly with an approved cleanser to combat viruses?
17. Can or should siblings and friends be in the same group? (Discuss pros and cons.)
18. For day camps, does the camp offer early drop-off and late pick-up? Extra fee?
19. What is included in the camp tuition? Snacks? Transportation? All activities? Field trips?
20. Does the camp offer discounts for early registration, siblings or referrals?

Camp fairs can be particularly helpful for finding local programs close to home, as well as overnight and teen travel programs, and camps for children with special needs.

When are children old enough to start camp?

When choosing a camp, remember that children of different ages have different needs, and seek a program that is age-appropriate. Many day camps offer dedicated camp programs for preschoolers, featuring a lower counselor to camper ratio, shorter hours, or more rest time built into the camp day.

Child psychologists suggest that children are ready for overnight camp at about ages 8 to 10. When kids start asking about “sleepaway” camp, you may wish to explore the tremendous range of camp options availability today. Prepare children for overnight camp with one or two night stays at friends’ and relatives’ homes first, so kids become accustomed to being away from home. Some camps have short mini-camp overnight programs to introduce first-timers or young children to an overnight camp experience.

The Bucks Camp Expo shows families that with so many wonderful camp programs from which to choose, there is a camp for every child, every interest, and every budget.